Binali Yildirim, a trusted ally of Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is set to become the country's new prime minister, vowed that he would work to introduce a new constitution and change the country's political system into a presidential one. Binali Yildirim said it was time to make the country's current "de facto situation" a "legal" one.
The 60-year-old stood unopposed for the role and was formally appointed after delegates of the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) voted to endorse him at a special convention known as the extraordinary convention. He received 1,405 out of a total of 1,470 votes of delegates registered to vote.
Yildirim, who will leave his role as Transport and Communications Minister, replaces Ahmet Davutoğlu who quit as prime minister over a rift with Erdoğan over policies and doubting his plans to change the constitution to enhance his own position.
In his farewell speech, Davutoğlu said the extraordinary convention to endorse a new leader was not his wish, but that he agreed to it to preserve the unity of the party.
"Our issue, our cause, come above all personal concerns," Davutoğlu said. "The sole reason behind my decision to hand over the position is the value I place on the unity of our party and my concern that the AKP movement does not come to any harm."
While the president's role is largely ceremonial at present, Erdoğan wants to turn the figurehead presidency into an all-powerful position with executive powers. While Davutoğlu was less-than-enthusiastic toward the project, it appears Yildirim will work to push Erdogan's agenda through.
Paying homage and expressing his devotion to Erdoğan, Yildirim told delegates that they shared "a common fate and common passion", with the president.
"We promise you that your passion will be our passion, your cause will be our cause, your path will be our path," he said, before vowing to work to introduce a new constitution so the current "de facto situation" with the presidency became a "legal" one.
A long partnership
Yildirim's political career has been intertwined with Erdoğan's as the pair have risen to the top of Turkish politics. Between 1994-2000 when Erdoğan was Istanbul's mayor, he served as the director general of the Istanbul Ferries Company.
Together with members of a number of existing conservative parties, they became co-founders of the AKP in 2001. The following year Yildirim became one to the party's first members of parliament, winning the seat for Istanbul's first electoral district.
Named as transport minister shortly afterwards, he presided over numerous projects including the Marmaray – an undersea rail tunnel under the Bosphorus strait, high-speed rail lines, and the expansion of the country's road and airport facilities.
However, he ignored calls for his resignation in 2004 after a high-speed train derailment claimed the lives of 41 passengers and injured 80 in the Pamukova district in the north of the country. Some accused him and his party of ignoring safety for the "show" of fast trains.
After the Maritime and Communications portfolios were merged with the Ministry of Transport in 2011, Yildirim's brief expanded. But two years later he would leave top level politics to become the AKP's mayoral candidate in the city of Izmir, only to lose to the opposition candidate and incumbent Aziz Kocaoglu.
He was also not listed in the AKP's MP candidate list for the June 2015 general election because of the party's three-term limit, but he would nonetheless serve as an adviser to Erdoğan.
Five months later, in November's general election he entered parliament again, returning to his role as the transport minister.
Now Erdoğanis expected to formally ask Yildirim to form a new government after the convention as traditionally the post of premier in Turkey goes to the leader of the largest party.
In an earlier message read at the opening of the convention, Erdoğan stressed the need for a new constitution and a new system of government and said he hoped the term ahead would help correct the current "skewed" system of administration.
"My legal bond with the AKP may have ended the day I took the (presidential) oath of office, but my bonds of love have never ended and never will," he said.